Ruth Moerdyk ’83

Ruth was awarded the Faith Award this year for recognition of her leadership and work in creating safe and affirming spaces through a faith lens. Ruth advocates for the LGBTQ community from the pulpit (she serves as the pastor of Christian Church-Disciples of Christ in Kalamazoo), in everyday life, and as chair of the Faith Alliance. During her time at Kalamazoo College, Moerdyk helped found the first LGB student organization at K and went on to provide leadership for the LGBTQ student organization at Chicago Theological Seminary. She earned her bachelor’s degree in religion and studied abroad in Sierra Leone.

New Zealand Honey and an Episcopal Childhood

Cliff Van Eaton ’72 has written one honey of a book…about honey!

Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey, is the ‘rags-to-riches’ tale of how a piece of scientific serendipity turned an unwanted honey into a ground-breaking medicine. Manuka honey is a product unique to New Zealand and valued for its antibiotic effects. Cliff’s book chronicles the science behind the discovery of those effects.

It was named a finalist in the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Book Prize. The Royal Society of New Zealand is modeled on the original Royal Society in England, the oldest continuing academy of sciences in the world. An important function of the Society is the sharing of science-based ideas in the overall New Zealand community, and the Book Prize is a way of celebrating the efforts of writers and publishers in that regard. The competition is held every two years, and is open to all books by New Zealand authors that “communicate scientific concepts in an interesting and readable way for a general audience.” Love those science writers with a lay audience in mind.

Cliff is a well-known writer on beekeeping subjects and is co-author of two books on bee diseases. For more than 30 years he worked as a beekeeper adviser in New Zealand, and has also assisted beekeepers in countries as diverse as the Solomon Islands, Uruguay, and Vietnam.


On his way home for dinner, the narrator of Jim Todd’s (class of 1958) memoir, The Key, stops to watch the demolition of the Episcopal Church building that was his church home growing up. At first the razing of a spiritual “home” troubles him and also prompts a vivid recollection of a single choir season–the fall-to-spring of the narrator’s 12th year. The flashback of those nine months in the life of “Joey”–the narrator’s younger self–and his two close friends, Danny and Kenny (the “three inseparables”), occupy the ensuing 13 chapters of the book. The church-and-choir related hijinks of these three (who move through the narrative like a Tom Sawyer and his gang) include a frog funeral at church that inspires the start of acolyte training, a school-boy crush on a department store holiday season harpist, a water war with Baptist youth choir members that escalates into something more serious, a spitball attack on the choir director, the sabotage of a presentation by the girl (and fellow choir member) Joey likes but doesn’t know he likes, and the changing of Joey’s voice–a sad casualty of maturation that necessitates his “fall from grace” as the choir’s soprano soloist (first row) to the hinterland of alto background (second row).

Jim has written a book about the importance of fun, the inevitability of impermanence and change (Joey’s voice, the nature of friendships, the relocation of a church), and, most importantly, what endures in the face of such impermanence. The book’s final chapter snaps the reverie of the adult narrator into the present. The dump trucks are back filling the church building’s former foundation. And yet the evanescent last images of Joseph’s flashback call to life the profound changes he experienced in church late that choir season of long ago. That memory confirms for him the key of what matters and what never changes. The narrator finds himself less troubled by the scene at which he stopped. Joseph is a church leader at its new home. He starts his car to continue his way home, taking “the key” and the essence of his old church building with him.

Cody Musselman ’11

Cody graduated from Harvard Divinity School in May with a Master of Theological studies degree. At K she majored in religion and studied abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand. At Harvard her academic focus was on American religious history with special interests in 20th- and 21st-century religious phenomena. She plans to pursue her doctorate in American religious history at Yale University.

Aaron Maurice Saari ’98

Aaron Maurice Saari ’98Aaron became the first ordained minister to marry a same-gender couple in Dayton, Ohio. Aaron, who majored in religion at K, is pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs, and he also serves as Multifaith Campus Minister at Sinclair Community College. Aaron did his study abroad in Rome, Italy. He is earning his doctorate in Intercultural Studies at United Theological Seminary. He is pictured (left) with his brother Stephen Allison, who passed away in 2002. Stephen, too, was a K alum, a member of the class of 1995.

Aaron Saari ’98

Aaron is the new part-time pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Yellow Springs, Ohio. A bible scholar and theologian, Aaron is the author of The Many Deaths of Judas Iscariot, a book about the historical figure and the issue of suicide. He has been a visiting professor at Xavier and an adjunct instructor at Antioch University Midwest, teaching courses in writing, Christianity, and non-western religions.

Caroline Barnett ’15

Caroline has joined the Sojourners yearlong Christian discipleship internship program in Washington, D.C., working as an editorial assistant on Sojourners Magazine, which provides commentary, news, and analysis from a faith perspective, interviews with those on the forefront of theological and justice-oriented study, culture reviews, inspiration, and more. Sojourners envisions a future in which Christians put their faith into action in the passionate pursuit of social justice, peace and environmental stewardship, working in partnership with people of other perspectives, for the common good of communities, families and individuals. At K, Caroline majored in anthropology and sociology and studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal. She served in the Chapel’s Interfaith Student Leaders program, and an article on that endeavor appeared in the October BeLight.

Cody Musselman ’11

Cody is pursuing a Master’s degree in theological studies at Harvard Divinity School, focusing on the religions of the Americas, with a special interest in American civil religion and material culture. She is also an intern for the Harvard University Pluralism Project, which helps Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity through research, outreach, and the active dissemination of resources. Cody majored in religion at K and studied abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For the past several years she has worked as an outdoor education instructor. Eventually she intends to obtain a doctorate degree in religion.

Paul Joseph Carpenter ’49

Paul died on March 6, 2014. He served with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater during World War II, and his war experiences precipitated his lifelong advocacy for peace and justice. After the war he graduated earned his B.A. in sociology from K and then earned his Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. His thesis advisor there was the noted theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Paul was ordained in the Community Baptist Church of Montgomery Center, Vermont in 1954. He also served American Baptist churches in Cleveland and Norwalk, Ohio. He was granted standing in the Congregational Church (known today as the United Church of Christ) in 1962, and he served UCC churches in Parkman, Brecksville, and Youngstown, Ohio, where he was instrumental in establishing a chapter of Habitat For Humanity. At the age of 55 Carpenter returned to school, achieving a master’s degree in community counseling. He concluded his career ministering successfully to persons suffering with mental illness in the Youngstown community.

Richard Means ’52

Richard died on February 15, 2014. He was a beloved professor emeritus of sociology at the College who first arrived on campus as an undergraduate student in 1948, when he transferred from the University of Toledo. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. At K he won the Hodge Prize in philosophy and was president of the student body. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He and fellow K graduate, Joyce Allen, married in 1953.

Richard earned a bachelor’s degree in divinity from Colgate Rochester Divinity School (1956) and an M.A. and Ph.D. (sociology) from Cornell University (1959 and 1964, respectively). He served as a chaplain at Cornell (1956-59) and was ordained as an Associate Minster of the First Congregational Church (1957). He returned to K in 1961, where he received tenure (1964) and was promoted to full professor (1972). He retired from K in 1993, having served the College for 32 years.

Among the qualities that made him exceptional, wrote his colleague and friend, Dean of the Chapel Robert Dewey, on the occasion of Mean’s 25th service anniversary with the College, were his “command of a discipline, intellectual curiosity beyond that discipline, stimulating conversation, collegial support, a sense of humor, a broad range of interests and an impressive knowledge of each, a passionate concern for the vitality and quality of the College and for the problems confronting society, the nation, and the world.” His research and teaching interests were broad and deep and included the family, criminology, mental health institutions, the sociology of religion, race relations, alcohol and drug abuse, the environment, and social gerontology. Citing the breadth of his colleague’s intellectual interests Dean Dewey likened Richard to “a man in a conning tower rotating his periscope across the wide horizon to see and grasp what he finds there.” Richard wrote numerous journal articles on various topics in sociology and religion, and he was the author of the book The Ethical Imperative: The Value Crisis in America, which was used in college classes at Grinnell and Carleton, among others.

After he retired from K, Richard served as interim minster of the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. He then served as interim minster of the First Congregational Church of Coloma, Michigan.

He is survived by Joyce, his wife of 60 years, their three children, three grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.